Press Release
March 8, 2021

Villanueva: Review protocols on workers' deployment to curb OFW abuses, especially on women

Senator Joel Villanueva called for a thorough review of protocols on deployment of workers, citing data from the Department of Labor and Employment which showed that the most abused OFWs are household service workers, who are mostly, if not all are women.

At the resumption of the public hearings into the proposed creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, Villanueva urged the government to continue to engage host countries through bilateral agreements to ensure accountability on the welfare of OFWs.

He likewise cited the need for the government to continue pushing for reforms in the sponsorship system, which is prevalent in the Middle East, to help curb the abuses on Filipino household service workers.

"Kahit mag-deploy po tayo ng skilled workers, kung pupuntahan nilang bansa ay may mga ganitong patakaran, mahihirapan po tayo na protektahan ang ating mga manggagawa. Our Minority Leader made a very clear point: 'A source of law is culture and no form of bilateral agreement and Philippine domestic law can address that culture, like the Kafala,'" said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, on March 8, which is International Women's Day.

Under the kafala system, a practice observed in Gulf states, the immigration status of migrant workers is legally bound to an employer who acts as the sponsor. The system requires workers to obtain consent from employers to enter and exit the country, and even transferring jobs, which the International Labor Organization described as the state's "delegation of responsibility ... to the private employer to oversee both a migrant worker's immigration and employment status."

"It is important that though OFW issues should be genderless, a large part of the bill must place protections for our OFWs particularly our women because most countries they are deployed to are patriarchal by nature, and by culture," he said.

Villanueva cited government data that showed at least 56 percent, or 1.2 million, of Filipinos eking out a living in foreign countries are women.

"We often hear of the narratives on how our women OFWs become good mothers, sisters, nannies of the children of foreign families instead of the Filipinos so we craft laws from these personal stories," Villanueva said.

Data from Philippine Overseas Labor Office showed that in 2020, some 4,302 cases of maltreatment and mistreatment were recorded in the Middle East, while contract violations surged to 21,127 cases in the same region.

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